Living the Screen Life

No doubt, I’m getting older. Most of the time, I’m OK with it. You can say things you could not say at 25 and 35 and get away with it. If you make a double-entendre, everyone assumes it was an accident.

While out of town this past week, I got to be in situations involving a lot of people, and it made me aware of the behavior in different demographics. It also made me aware I am no longer in the major demographic, defined as the one marketers prefer, and gear their marketing to.

Together and alone, living the screen life. Source: flickr, Susan, NYC

When you are young, you want to identify with a group’s behavior because it is easy, it’s acceptable, it’s expedient, and, well, it’s what everyone in your demographic does.

As you get older, you want to do all those things, too–but the demographic shifts. You no longer find the dominant demographic right, useful, or expedient. Here’s a sampling of examples:

—Riding in a van with strangers seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to get to know people, to talk to people about their experiences and conclusions about life. The van ride was completely silent as everyone concentrated on their small screen lives. Hunched over phones, reading emails, texting, watching videos of somewhere else, not here, not now. Life is not out the window for those folks, life is on the screen, in the Not-here.

— Waitstaff, hotel porters, store clerks are all human. I look them in the eye when I’m speaking to them. The good ones are trained to look back; the majority are looking around for someone more like them. Someone who doesn’t make eye contact.

— I say “thank you” and “I appreciate your help” way too often. Brought up on “please” and “thank you,” I use it generously, and often. As one person in my vicinity said, “Do you always suck up like that? It’s not like they saved your life.” The idea of restricting thanks to people who save lives is not appealing. The idea that someone who has known me for 10 minutes needs to fix me to find me acceptable is not appealing, either.

— The constant reminders that we are not paying attention to someone else, right now. I no longer ask for people to turn off their cell phones when I teach. It doesn’t work, and it annoys the class. The constant beeping, buzzing, tootling, and chirping of phones is now part of class. Two people had their cell phones in plastic baggies, so they could use them with ink-stained fingers. We now can’t leave our kids, our friends, our spouses out of our lives for even an hour. There was a constant cycling in and out of class as people took calls or made them, of checking texts that cried for attention, and answering them. This ran strongly along age lines.

Reading and answering texts slows down classes so much, that I now give less information because I have to repeat more.

—The need to shop. I understand the need to be entertained by unique shopping experiences. I do not understand the thrill of visiting the same chain shops available in your home town. Does an Old Navy in Dallas really carry totally different items than an Old Navy in Phoenix? Or is the thrill the comfort of the familiar?

Every demographic thinks theirs is right, best, easiest, and most modern. It has to be that way, or change would never happen and progress would never be achieved.  I love my high-tech gear, I use electronic boarding passes on all my flights. But I also love the high-touch, low-tech feeling of real life. Of being totally focused on the people I am with now, here, in Face-Time.

Quinn McDonald is a journaler and a creativity coach.